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Information from NHSE on Arrangements for Easter 2018

NHSE has provided the following information as a reminder of the expectations and arrangements regarding the upcoming Easter weekend (30 March - 2 April).

Easter opening

It is expected that practices will not be undertaking any changes to their routine core opening times between 8am and 6.30pm on normal working days (excluding Bank Holidays). Where practices have regular periods of closure during core hours, practices remain responsible for ensuring that patients have access to services. You do not need to notify NHSE if these are regular / routine arrangements which you have declared to NHSE through the practice declaration (e-Dec).

If a patient cannot speak to your practice during core hours (08:00-18:30 Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays) around this period and this is not part of the regular / routine (declared) opening hours, you will need to contact NHSE to confirm what arrangements are in place to deliver the contractual obligations by Monday 12 March. You can do this be responding to the email sent by NHSE and they will then arrange to call you to discuss the arrangements.

Extended Hours Access practices

The Extended Hours Access Practice scheme set out agreed extended opening 52 weeks of the year. Wherever possible a cancelled session should be re-scheduled for another day in the same week (for example where sessions are cancelled due to bank holiday). However, if the practice has to cancel an Extended Hours session due to exceptional circumstances (e.g. significantly adverse weather) the expectation is that the practice will ensure steps are taken to notify patients in a timely way and that the practice will arrange to make up the lost hours within two weeks of the original date and the practice will ensure this is recorded on the quarterly Extended Hours Monitoring Report.

Should the practice wish to amend the days/times in which the service is delivered during the course of the contract year, this should be confirmed in writing allowing at least 28 days’ in advance of any changes being agreed.

Communications

NHS England and CCGs communication plans over the period will reiterate to members of the public that GP services are available during core hours, and that A&E services are not the default. Communications will also include positive messages of self-care, including asking patients to keep a well-stocked medicine cabinets and to stock up again with cough, cold and flu remedies.

Bank holiday checklist

Practices should ensure:

  • Plans are in place to ensure the identification of high risk community based patients and to profile their care management over the extended holiday period appropriately.
  • The fax is operational throughout.
  • The telephone divert arrangements are updated for the bank holidays and a staff member is scheduled to check that the phones are still working properly over the course of the 4 day bank holiday
  • Third party call handling divert arrangements are updated – where used and are successfully operational.
  • Ensure that any changes to access times are clearly advertised on NHS Choices/practice website/in practice. If the practice uses a pre-recorded message when patients telephone, you may wish to consider using this to remind patients about changes for the holiday period.
  • In the weeks before the Easter weekend, highlight to patients the need to plan for sufficient repeat medication to cover them for the period, information to patients could include pharmacy opening times over Easter.
  • Check Business Continuity Plans are up-to-date, particularly ensuring that contact details for local health organisations are correct.

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